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City of Bessemer Receives $300K Federal Brownfields Grant from EPA

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The Birmingham Times

The city of Bessemer has been awarded a 2020 Brownfield Assessment Grant by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Bessemer will receive $300,000 from the EPA to do community-wide assessments of known and potential brownfield sites in the city. The funding will pay for Phase I and Phase II environmental assessments, the development of a cleanup plan when necessary and support community engagement activities.

“First I want to thank the EPA for awarding our city these funds,” said Mayor Kenneth E. Gulley. “This grant will greatly assist us as we seek continued transformation in Bessemer by finding viable solutions and future uses for the brownfields in our community.”

A brownfield is described as real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Examples of a brownfield include old gas stations, dry cleaners or industrial sites.

Cities around the nation have been successful in redeveloping brownfield sites for reuse for amenities such as parks, new housing and new business zones.

Assessment activities in Bessemer will target downtown and other industrialized portions of the community. Downtown is located within a Qualified Opportunity Zone. PPM Consultants assisted the city with the writing of the award-winning grant.

EPA’s Brownfields Program empowers states, communities and other stakeholders to work together to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfields.

The Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act of 2002, as amended by the Brownfields Utilization, Investment and Local Development Act of 2018, was passed to help states and communities around the country clean up and revitalize brownfield sites.

Bessemer and the greater Birmingham area owe much to its industrial pasts. The grant will help Bessemer conduct community-wide assessments of 21 brownfield sites. The goal, according to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, is to help “transform contaminated sites into community assets.”

According to Alabama Department of Environmental Management Director Lance LeFleur, “Alabama’s State Brownfields Program … has cleaned up and redeveloped more than 400 of the 600 brownfield sites in Alabama.”

Here’s what else Bessemer will be able to do with the funds: develop a plan for cleaning up the areas and community engagement and outreach, including six community meetings and distribution of materials related to the project.

The primary target area is in downtown Bessemer. There are four specific priority areas, including the following:  an old 1.5-acre rail site; the former City Hall building; a former fire station; a long-closed furniture manufacturing company.

EPA Region 4 administrator Mary S. Walker said the grant “will provide the city of Bessemer… with resources to clean up contaminated lands and return them to productive use. Overall, Brownfields funding provides communities with an opportunity to transform contaminated sites into community assets that will attract jobs, encourage partnerships and achieve economic benefits.”

www.bhamnow.com contributed to this article.